Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: prevalence, characteristics, and pharmacologic treatment in nursing home residents with cognitive impairment

J Manag Care Pharm. 2012 Oct;18(8):598-606. doi: 10.18553/jmcp.2012.18.8.598.


Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is prevalent in nursing home residents. National and international guidelines exist for management of COPD; however, little is known about "real-world" management of COPD in this population. Nursing home patients with significant cognitive impairment may have difficulty utilizing handheld device (HHD) formulations of respiratory medications and may be clinically appropriate candidates for nebulized therapy.

Objectives: To determine (a) the prevalence, clinical characteristics, and treatment of patients with a diagnosis of "emphysema/COPD" per Minimum Data Set (MDS) version 2.0 records in U.S. nursing homes and (b) the relationship of nebulized versus HHD formulations of medication to prevalence of shortness of breath in a cohort of cognitively impaired nursing home residents.

Methods: In a descriptive, retrospective analysis of a large data repository of skilled nursing home residents with COPD, prescription claims and MDS data from October 1, 2009, through September 30, 2010, were extracted, linked, and de-identified. Measures included medications, diagnoses, and selected outcome parameters from the MDS. Cognitive impairment was defined as a score of 3-6 on the Cognitive Performance Scale derived from MDS records. A proxy of ≤ 14-day courses of respiratory antibiotics, oral corticosteroids, or both was used to identify COPD exacerbations. Shortness of breath (SOB) in the last 7 days was captured from Section J1.l. of the MDS.

Results: The total number of unique patients with at least 1 MDS record during the study period was 126,121. Of those, 27,106 (21.5%) had COPD. The prevalence rates of diagnoses concurrent with COPD were as follows: asthma = 8.6%, Alzheimer's disease or other dementia = 37.2%, congestive heart failure = 37.5%, anxiety disorder = 23%, depression = 50.1%, pneumonia = 21.2%, and respiratory infection = 9%. 58% of patients with COPD were white females aged 75 years or older. According to the MDS, 62% of COPD patients had a short-term memory problem, while 43.3% of patients had moderately or severely impaired cognitive skills for daily decision making. 83% of COPD patients with pharmacy claims (17,395/27,106) received at least 1 medication used to treat COPD; 9,711 (17.1%) received no respiratory medications. Use of beta-agonists (53.9%), anticholinergic medications (41.2%), long-acting beta-agonist/corticosteroid (LABA/ICS) combinations (28%) in HHD, and nebulized beta-agonist/anticholinergic combinations (26.6%) was prevalent. Inhaled LABA/ICS and long-acting anticholinergic therapy was received by 28% and 22% residents, respectively. 22% (n = 5,085) of patients exhibited at least 2 exacerbations of COPD, and 33% were noted to have SOB. Monotherapy with short-acting beta-agonists (SABA) was evident in 48.7% of cognitively impaired COPD patients. SOB within the previous 7 days was noted in 39.1% of cognitively impaired COPD patients treated with nebulized SABA monotherapy. 38% of these patients exhibited 2 or more COPD exacerbations, and 57.9% were hospitalized at least once during the 12-month period. LABA monotherapy or combined LABA/SABA use represented ≤ 1% of beta-agonist use for unique COPD patients with cognitive impairment.

Conclusions: In this retrospective analysis of administrative data, 21.5% of nursing home residents had a diagnosis of COPD, and 17% of these residents received no respiratory medications. These residents had significant cognitive and functional impairment and concurrent diagnoses. 22% of residents experienced at least 2 exacerbations of COPD during the 12 months of study. As many as 60% were not receiving inhaled LABA/ICS or inhaled tiotropium, and 33% exhibited SOB. There is significant use of nebulized SABA monotherapy, which may be contributing to SOB and exacerbations or hospitalizations in nursing home residents with COPD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / administration & dosage
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cholinergic Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Cholinergic Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Cognition Disorders / complications*
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Dyspnea / drug therapy
  • Dyspnea / etiology
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • Nursing Homes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Cholinergic Antagonists
  • Glucocorticoids